Mark Pope makes another addition to his first Kentucky basketball coaching staff

New head coach Mark Pope has made another addition to the University of Kentucky men’s basketball staff for the 2024-25 season.

Mikhail McLean, who has spent the past three years as an assistant coach at Lamar University, is Pope’s latest hire for his first season in charge of the Wildcats.

McLean is expected to fill the fifth and final full assistant coaching position on Pope’s first UK staff. Pope, who was hired in April following the departure of longtime Wildcats coach John Calipari, has already brought in Alvin Brooks III, Mark Fox, Cody Fueger and Jason Hart as assistant coaches. Pope has also hired Nick Robinson as his director of basketball operations.

UK officially announced McLean as a new member of the coaching staff Friday afternoon.

McLean played college basketball at Houston, initially for head coach James Dickey, and he was a senior on the team during Kelvin Sampson’s first season in charge of the Cougars.

Alvin Brooks Jr. — the father of Alvin Brooks III — was an assistant coach at Houston for all five years that McLean was on campus, and he made McLean his first hire after accepting the head coaching position at Lamar three years ago.

Before joining the Lamar coaching staff, McLean began his professional career at Houston under Sampson and Brooks as the assistant director of player development, and he was on staff for the Cougars’ run to the Final Four in 2021.

While at Houston, McLean was involved in scouting opponents and worked with the team’s guards and wings, including eventual NBA draft picks Marcus Sasser, Quentin Grimes and Damyean Dotson.

“I am honored to be joining Coach Pope and the Kentucky men’s basketball staff,” McLean said in a statement. “There is not a better fan base to work for and chase championships than this one. I would like to thank Coach Pope and Mitch Barnhart for affording me this opportunity. I would be remiss if I did not also thank Alvin Brooks for his selfless leadership and mentorship the last 14 years at both Lamar University and the University of Houston, along with Kelvin Sampson for their unbelievable support and guidance. My family and I are thrilled to be joining the Lexington community and I can’t wait to get to work.”

McLean spent five seasons as a player for the Cougars — gaining an extra year of eligibility due to an injury — and made 34 starts and 101 appearances. A 6-foot-8 forward, he averaged 2.4 points and 1.8 rebounds during his playing career. He also earned all-conference academic honors during all four seasons he played, earning a bachelor’s degree in three years and a master’s degree in education by the end of his fifth year on campus.

Sampson hired McLean as a graduate assistant after his playing career was finished before adding him to the support staff in the player development role a year later.

A native of the Bahamas, McLean has also served as an assistant coach for the Bahamas Senior National Team.

“Mikhail played and coached under Kelvin Sampson who is one of the best, toughest and smartest coaches in the game,” Pope said in a statement. “Mikhail’s work with The Bahamian National Team along with his college coaching experience has allowed him to become one of the hardest-working, detail-oriented and top skill development coaches in the country. I’m so excited to have him and his family join our staff, and for him to get to work with our team because he is going to make a massive impact on this program.”

Mikhail McLean has spent the past four seasons as an assistant coach at Lamar University.
Mikhail McLean has spent the past four seasons as an assistant coach at Lamar University.

Mark Pope’s UK coaching staff

A relatively recent NCAA rule change allows college basketball programs to have five full-time assistant coaches who can engage in on-court instruction and other coaching activities, though only three of those positions are permitted to join the head coach for off-campus recruiting trips.

The three UK assistants who will also be designated as Pope’s off-campus recruiters are Brooks, Fueger and Hart, and that trio has already been active on the recruiting trail this spring.

Brooks, a longtime assistant coach under Scott Drew at Baylor, has gained the reputation in recent years as one of college basketball’s top recruiters. Fueger has been an assistant on Pope’s staff for all nine of his previous years as a college head coach. And Hart, a former NBA player, has previously been an assistant at Southern Cal and was most recently the head coach of the NBA G League’s Ignite program.

Fox has spent nearly two decades as a Division I head coach, with stops at Nevada, Georgia and California. He was also an assistant coach at Washington when Pope started his college playing career there, and Fox hired Pope for his first coaching job at Georgia in 2009.

Pope, a former UK player and captain of the 1996 national championship team, spent the past five seasons as the head coach at BYU and led Utah Valley’s program for four years before that.

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